An Egyptian activist and prominent figure in the 2011 Arab Spring is headed back to prison after being sentenced to five years Monday on charges of spreading fake news, his defense lawyer says.
Alaa Abdel-Fattah was released in 2019 after being sentenced in 2014 for participating in an unauthorized protest and allegedly assaulting a police officer.
Shortly after his release, however, he was rearrested following a government crackdown for allegedly spreading fake news, misuse of social media and joining the Muslim Brotherhood, which was declared a terrorist organization in 2013.
Also sentenced to four years each were Abdel-Fattah's former lawyer and a fellow activist.
Several Western governments and human rights groups have criticized the sentences.
Since the 2011 Arab Spring, which saw the toppling of longtime leader Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s government has been cracking down on dissidents.
Abdel-Fattah comes from a family of activists who say he has been tortured while being held in Cairo's Tora prison.
"His crime is that, like millions of young people in Egypt and far beyond, he believed another world was possible,” said his mother, mathematics professor Laila Soueif. “And he dared to try to make it happen."
The deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, Joe Stork, issued a statement saying, “The egregious miscarriage of justice handed down by this exceptional court to punish peaceful expression reveals how Egypt’s justice system has itself become a tool of repression.” He called for the verdicts to be overturned “immediately.”
Some information in this report came from The Associated Press and Agence France-Presse.